John Lambert

Overland Journey to Utah, 1850

Near the Twin Mounds, Wyoming

Record of the Overland Travel John Lambert and his Family

Benjamin Hawkins Company*
Departing from Kanesville, Iowa, 5 June 1850
Arriving in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, 9 Sep 1850

Family members listed in Passenger list:

  • Lambert, John (30)
  • Lambert, Adelia Groesbeck (28)
  • Lambert, Martha Adelaide (3)
  • Lambert, John Carlos (1)

(Note: It is assumed that John’s mother, Patience Vay Lambert, and his brother, Joseph, also traveled with this company, but their names have not been found on any company roster.)

"Emigration (From the Frontier Guardian, June 12th, 1850),"
Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 15 Aug. 1850, 252-53.

We have attended the organization of 350 wagons of Salt Lake Emigrants up to Saturday 8th inst., Capt. Milo Andrews [Andrus] is a-head with fifty wagons. Next follows, Capt. Benjamin Hawkins with one hundred; Thomas S. Johnson, Capt. of 1st Division, and ---- Capt. of Second Division. We left them at Council Grove 12 miles from Bethlehem west of the Missouri river, on the morning of the 7th inst. Next in succession is Bishop Aaron Johnson with a train of one hundred wagons; Elisha [Elijah] Everett [Averett], Capt. of 1st Division, and Matthew Caldwell, Capt. of the 2nd Division. Next in order is Capt. James Pace with one hundred. Richard Session, Capt. of 1st Division, and David Bennett, Capt. of 2nd Division. The Emigrants are generally well fitted out with wagons and teams, provisions, &c.

There are some wagons quite too heavy. Those brought from St. Louis are good, but too heavy. A heavy wagon with a stiff tongue is unsuitable for the journey. Let no person hereafter buy a wagon for this trip unless its tongue has a joint in the hounds forward of the axletree. Light wagons that will bear from sixteen to twenty hundred pounds, are the most suitable for this service. These heavy lumber concerns should be left here, and not used by our people, neither by anybody else, unless they choose.

The number of California wagons that have crossed at this point, is about 4,500 averaging 3 men to the wagon, making 13,500 men, and about 22,000 head of horses, mules, oxen, and cows.

Our own emigration to Salt Lake Valley will amount to about 700 wagons as nearly as we, at present, can determine. They take two new carding machines in addition to one sent last year, besides much other valuable machinery. They also take about 4000 sheep and 5000 head of cattle, horses, and mules.

With the facilities for improvement that are already in the Valley, and those that are now going, we may expect to see that hitherto, desolate region, growing rapidly into importance, and consideration. Success to the West, and to Western enterprize, to Western men and measures! "Let the Wilderness and the solitary place be glad for them, and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose."


Reminiscences, 1864, 8-10
Samuel Kendall Gifford

So I started for the Rocky Mountains in the spring of 1850. I went to Council Bluffs and found my mother in Plum Hollow on the east side of the Missouri River. She packed up and I took her with me. We then went to Council Point where I found Uncle Levi Gifford and family who were getting ready for the journey. We staid a few days for them to get ready and then we drove down to the lower ferry below the mouth of the Platte River. Here we found a great many had gathered to be organized for the journey. We were organized into Brother [Benjamin] Hawkins’ hundred, Thomas Johnson’s fifty. My team consisted of one yoke of oxen, one yoke of three year old steers and one yoke of cows. We crossed the river in a flat boat and camped at the mouth of Salt Creek on the Platte bottom. Here I consider a miracle was wrought for the benefit of the companies that were about to cross the plains. The Pawnee Indians made their appearance by hundreds, and I believe by thousands, for they could be seen standing on the bluffs like a thousand stumps. Quite a lot of them came into camp and commenced begging and stealing, and stole more than they begged. One finally stole a sack of crackers, and got caught at it and brought it back. The old Chief, quite an old Indian gave him a number of heavy licks with his riding whip over the head and gave him a terrible talking to. I suppose it was for getting caught and not for stealing. About this time it was discovered that a Gentile who had come up on a steamboat and got into our company to cross the Plains was nearly dead with the small pox. This word was soon conveyed to the Redmen who disappeared like dew before the searching rays of the sun. The Cholera also commenced it work in camp and soon we burried a gentile that died of the Cholera and then Peter Shirts’ wife died. Then Captain Thomas Johnson called the camp together and said “If you will do as I tell you with regard to the water that you use for drinking I will promise you that there shall not more than five die in this camp with the Cholera.” All believed what he said and did accordingly and the strange promise was literally fulfilled, for just five and no more died. While the gold seekers ahead of us and the Saints behind us were dying at a fearfut rate. I will now tell about the water. The Platte water being muddy, there had been wells dug all along the Platte bottom to get clear water. The wells were about six feet deep with steps dug to get to the water. The council was this, “To not go near those wells for water but get their water out of the river and drink none without boiling and to fill their churns, teakettles, and everything that they had that would hold water with boiled water to use while traveling. There was in the camp a kind of a fearful looking for the Small pox, as quite a number had been exposed, but no one had it. The Lord had respects to the words of his servant and preserved the camp from farther sickness and death.

Brother Lorenzo Young overtook our camp with a large herd of sheep one days drive below the south crossing of the Platte. When we came to the crossing we unloaded some of our wagons and took the sheep over in wagons. We had to raise our wagon boxes to cross the river to keep things dry. After crossing, Uncle Levi Gifford, Abram and Iabex [Jabez] Durfee and myself started to accompany Lorenzo Young to help guard his sheep through but we had but traveled one day until word came to us that Aunt Deborah Gifford could not be spared from Johnson camp, so Uncle Levi and myself stopped and waited for the company. I will here state that while I was at Council Point I took a severe Diarrhea and it continued to weaken me down until I was quite weak. We made camp one afternoon on the bank of the river where there was no wood to be got without crossing onto an island. It was perhaps from fifteen to 20 rods across to the island, and a portion of it was quite deep. We took ropes over with us and lashed a lot of wood together leaving rope enough so that we could swim ahead of the wood and pull it after us. When I was within a rod of the shore I commenced sinking. It was discovered by a lot of men on the shore. I had on heavy boots and was very weak and did not realize it till I got into deep water. About the same time a boy a little below was sinking for the third time when some man caught him and brought him to shore.

The horror that reigned in camps ahead of us cannot be described. Sometimes (places) for miles could be seen, feather beds, blankets, quilts, and clothing of every kind strewed over the plains, also wagon tires and irons of every description, gun barrels, stoves, etc. etc. The bottom of the Sweetwater was also lined with wagon tires, chains and other irons. And fresh graves could be seen in every direction. We met some missionaries going east who said they met companies of the gold emigration that were driving twelve abreast, hurrying to get away from the Cholera. Missouri and Illinois were well represented among the dead. These were the two states that had driven the Saints enmass ______ and some of them their bones are now bleaching on the plains.

We continued our journey slowly till at length we camped fifteen miles below Laramie, a small fort where a few of Uncle Sam’s soldiers were stationed. Here we found a camp of Indians of the Sioux Nation. These were the first redmen we had seen since the great small pox scare on Salt Creek. One of my steers became so lame that I had to leave him on the Prairie. I took a widow woman into my wagon and hitched up or yoked up a cow belonging to her and thus we continued our journey. An old man by the name of Richards who had a cancer on his lip, a captain of a ten in our company, got mad because Captain Johnson asked him to help some of the poor by letting them use some of his loose cattle (of which he had a great plenty) to help them on their journey. He took his ten and went ahead of the main compnay and drove to Bitter Cottonwoods in the Black Hills where there was good water, wood and feed. And when Captain Johnson came up a little later with the balance of the company (ie) the main company, Richards behaved like a mad-man. He started out very early the next morning and we saw him no more till we got to Deer Creek. Here Johnson took a halt by the edge of a nice grove of Boxelders, made a coalpit and burned coal, staid twelve days fixing wawgons, setting tires and shoeing oxen etc. I had not got my tire set. I was told that I could wedge them on. The idea was something new to me but I went to work and wedged them till I thought all was safe but I had not gone a half a mile till I had to stop and wedge up again, but I soon learned how to wedge a wagon. I will here mention that I had not been well since I took the Dirreah so bad at Council Point. While stopping at the Boxelder grove on Deercreek we were surrounded with wild currants of every kind, size, and color, and wild cherries in abundance. I ate them both cooked and raw. One day Peter Shurtz [Shirts] and a man by the name of Harns who has since been Bishop of Gunnison went up into the Black Hills some ten or twelve miles and killed a buffaloe and some antilope. And some others took two wheels of a wagon and made a cart of it and went after the meat. While coming down a steep mountain, pulling the cart with an ox team the cart run onto the oxen and broke the tongue of the cart. The men went to camp without the meat. They said the cart was about five miles from camp and that we could go to it and back before dark. It was about the middle of the afternoon. So there was five horsemen and five footmen started out without any lunch, thinking that we could be back to camp for supper. I was among the footmen. We traveled till we had gone at least ten miles. It was getting dark. We went onto a knole in the middle of a large valley. At a great distance across the valley we discovered something while on the side of the mountain and knowing that the cart had a cover onit, we concluded it must be the object of our search. But it looked more like a big rock. So we took the course and kept it as best we could in the dark and when we got there we found that we were not mistaken. We found the cart full of meat, some fresh and good and some spoiled. We found ourselves in a nice grove of pine, fur, popple (Quaking-asp) etc. Here we were without bread and the weather seemed very cold up so high in the mountains. So we built a large fire and broiled meat without salt and spent the night in eating fresh broiled meat and resting ourselves as best we could on the ground before a large fire. When daylight came I discovered that we were surrounded with service berries, the first I had ever [Text missing]


From the Salt Lake Express Mail Company

70 Miles west of Fort Laramie
July 28th 1850.

DEAR EDITOTS [EDITORS]:--Here we are encamped among the Red Hills so called, the earth nearly red as paint, caused by calcination this being the crater of some vast eruption; and we find the peaks, hills and rocks, thrown into admirable confusion by a tremendous effort of nature.

We have been three days from the Fort, and have had almost constant rain, at least once in twenty-four hours if not all the time, which makes the road very heavy.

Yesterday the weather was exceedingly cold, inasmuch, that a good overcoat and mittens felt well; some hard showers yesterday, and all last night. Yesterday we passed Thomas Johnson's company of fifty wagons, all in good health and teams in good order--left them five miles at the Le-Bonte. Grass was very scarce all day. We left Bishop [Aaron] Johnson's company on the 24th, near the Fort, in fine health and spirits, and teams in good order rolling along fast; and the companies behind are in like good condition and health. We are daily passing tons of Iron strewed all along the road; wagons, carriages, harnesses, saddles, trunks, chests, kegs,--every thing burnt, and the iron strewing on the plains 'tis really a sickening sight. For curiosity we throwed together in a pile, when it was near, and there was more then a wagon load, besides the tire that lie around in every direction.

Friday forenoon we passed a country beautifully sprinkled over with pines; timber to-day has been scarce--only in the creeks, and that is willow. Fort Laramie is a very pretty and a growing place; with a store at hand as well filled as any you can find in the States.

A number of deserters from the Fort were re-captured on Horse Creek, and we met them coming back the next morning. Our captain brought one into camp and gave him food on condition of his returning to the Fort; he said he had eaten nothing for three days, and we learn that there are more still ahead, but pursued. We saw a fine Buffalo yesterday, but did not succeed in capturing him. We have seen no Indians but a few in a village near the Fort; nor do we expect to see any soon.

I must close, an opportunity offers for sending this back. More Anon.



*Church History Library
Pioneer Submission

October 38, 2004

With regard to your request to add John Lambert's family to the 1850 Lorenzo Young company in the pioneer database on the Church web site:

We had the Lamberts in the 1850 unidentified company category with a note that they might have traveled in the Young company. However the John Lambert 1893 statement proves that they were in the Hawkins company. If he traveled "in the company of Thomas Johnson," then he was in the Hawkins company because Johnson was a captain of fifty in that company. I am including the portion of his statement referring to his crossing the plains on our web site, too. I don't know why his daughter, Elena, stated that her father came in the Young company, but John Lambert's statement is a much more contemporaneous record. In instances when we have a conflict in documentation, we are much more apt to accept his word than the word of a daughter [Elena] who didn't actually go on the journey, but was born 13 years afterwards.

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